14 Irrefutable Laws Of Muscle Building
Somewhere along the line, adding muscle size to your frame has been partnered with the belief that you must gorge on everything and anything in sight. What we’ve forgotten is that the bodybuilding and physique movement was birthed out of a pursuit of health. Bob Hoffman’s original magazine was titled: Fitness and Health. It’s time we reclaim the latter portion of that title.
Nowadays, gaining weight has never been easier. However, it’s probably not the type of #gainz you’re looking for. Nearly one-third of America is obese, and if you prescribe to a dirty bulk by eating everything and anything in sight with hopes that you will put on muscle, you might be adding to that statistic.
If your paramount goal is to put on some quality muscle mass, you can do so by following the nutrition and supplementation tips in this article. But you’ll have to say goodbye to the dirty bulk. Adjusting to a diet that is built on whole foods may be a difficult transition for you.
Gaining weight leaves the door open for you to join the 33% of people who are overweight. And if you’re reading this, I’m assuming that’s the last thing you want.
When it comes to adding mass to your frame, hitting the gym hard is only one piece of the puzzle. Here are 15 irrefutable laws that will help you to building muscle.
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14 Bodybuilding Rules to Help You Gain Like a Freak
Rule #1 – Eat like you give a damn
It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie in the gym or a seasoned vet, growing muscle always equates to more calories. Basically, you have to eat more.
If you claim you’ve been busting your tail in the gym and aren’t seeing any results, you aren’t eating enough. Most people who cry this anthem of “I’m not seeing any gains,” often times have a metabolism akin to a hummingbird that is spun out on cheap meth.
You don’t want to abruptly throw 2,000 extra calories into your daily diet though. Instead, start by adding 300-500 calories to your daily intake. If you’re not one to count or track your intake, you can also do this by simply adding one more meal (or shake) to your day.
The simplest way to determine your caloric needs is to identify your BMR. Then, you’ll take your BMR and times it by the multiplier below:
- By 1.2 if you exercise 1-3 hours per week.
- By 1.35 if you exercise 4-6 hours per week.
- By 1.5 if you exercise 6+ hours per week.
This gives you a good approximation of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is simply the total amount of calories you’re burning each day. Simply add 300-500 calories to in order to determine your new total daily intake.
2. Load up on leucine
The essential amino acid leucine triggers the muscle building pathway mTOR. This is particularly important for older trainees because the pathway is only triggered when an abundance of leucine is present in the amino acid pool.
Even though extra leucine is not needed to trigger this pathway if you’re a younger trainee, it supports a longer protein synthesis window if extra leucine is provided.
Lean beef, whey protein, and BCAA’s are great sources of leucine.
3. Get a grip on realistic muscle gains
Setting up a realistic goal for muscle gains will do wonders for your progress. When it comes to building actual muscle, not just gaining fat, the rate of progress is probably slower than you think.
Lyle McDonald, a fitness writer who also coaches bodybuilders, has come up with the following equation for how fast you can build muscle:
You’ll notice that as your years in the gym start to accumulate, the slower the progress. This is reality. As Charles Poloquin says, “Dirty bulking programs won’t produce any more muscle than ingesting the ideal amount of nutrients. Sorry, it’s simply not possible to force additional muscle growth by overfeeding.”
4. Don’t skip the fat
Just because you’ll be eating a surplus amount of calories doesn’t mean you should skimp on your fat intake.
In fact, including fat is a vital part of your diet when your attempting to slab on some muscle. Fats are key players in hormone regulation and help transport vitamins A, D, E and K. Moreover, maintaining a low-fat diet can influence a dip in your testosterone levels. This means less muscle and more fat. Not the best situation.
On a mass building plan, a general perspiration for fat intake is about 30% coming from fats. The ratio of your fat intake is just as important as the overall amount. One-third of your fat intake should be coming from saturated, one-third from monounsaturated fats and one-third polyunsaturated fats.
Here is a practical fat list to follow:
- Animal fats (meats, eggs, butter, dairy)
- Coconut oil
- Fish oil
- Chia seeds
- Brazil nuts
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5. Drink your calories
A common drawback for many trying to add mass is that they simply don’t have the stomach to scarf down any additional food to enter a consistent surplus of calories. If you can’t take down another meal or two during the day, your next best solution is to slam down a shake (or three) every day depending on your needs.
Bumping up your daily intake via a liquid shake is far easier and practical in comparison to eating another meal that you have to wash down with water at every bite.
You can get high quality protein, a healthy dose of fiber and the necessary good fats all in one shake. Adding a calorie dense shake to your day will provide your body with lots of calories and jump start the muscle building process. All you need is about 3 minutes, a blender and a handful of muscle building ingredients. Here is an example:
Add a few ice cubes to you blender. Then throw in 2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk, 2 cups of spinach, 1/4 cup of almonds, 2 tbs of ground flaxseed, 1 banana and your favorite protein powder. Blend and down that thing.
6. Keep your carbs smart
When you’re on a mass building program, a large part of your diet will consist of carbohydrates. But that doesn’t mean Skittles and french fries should be in your daily regimen.
Classic bodybuilding staples like rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes should make up the foundation of your carbohydrate intake. Since they are longer chains of sugar molecules, they digest at a slower rate in comparison to simple carbohydrates like candy and fruit juices.
Sustained energy and a lower insulin response both benefits eating complex carbohydrates. Keeping your carbs smart and choosing complex carbohydrates most of the time is better for your health and allows you to keep your body fat levels in check.
7. Eat a lot of protein
Muscle is made up of protein, and to build more muscle you need to boost protein synthesis. To do this, research has proven over and over again that a diet that consists of 1.4-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is optimal.
For the sedentary person 40-60 grams of protein per would suffice and prevent deficiency. However, you are not sedentary.
You train hard and you expect a return on your investment. Adding in the optimal amount of protein to your diet each day is a sure fire way to see the fruit of your labor.
If you’re not used to taking in this amount of protein per day, you’ll want to include 2, maybe 3, calorie dense shakes with a high quality protein powder like Ronnie Coleman Signature Series Iso-Tropic Max.
8. Find a meal frequency that works for you
Meal timing and frequency has gotten mixed reviews. When you’re on a mass building diet, spreading your meals out over 3-6 meals is easier than jamming down an enormous amount of food one or two times a day. This is for practicality sake.
From a nutrition science perspective, frequency of meals is better determined by the amount of leucine you’re taking in, rather than total grams of protein.
Studies show that protein synthesis requires about 15 grams of EAA’s (essential amino acids). The key player in the EAA profile is leucine due to its influential triggering of the muscle pathway mTOR.
Therefore, if 15g grams is optimal for protein synthesis, each serving would contain 3.2g of leucine. This would be your target number.
For example, whey protein is about 12% leucine per gram of protein, so 27g of protein from whey would be your optimal serving amount.
At the end of the day, your total calories and EAA totals (particularly leucine) are the most important, not the amount of meals you eat per day. The best frequency is the one you can sustain and fits into your lifestyle.
9. Include fast carbs right after your workouts
When you’re ripping several thousand pounds off the floor and pressing hundreds of pounds off your chest during your workouts, you burn through a boat load of muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates in the muscle cell and liver).
The end of your workout provides a perfect time for you to ingest some fast digesting carbs. Think of it this way:
You’re looking at two windows. One window is only open a tiny bit. Maybe a one inch crack is open at the bottom. The other window is wide open. You also have two buckets of water that you plan throwing into each window.
In window one (with the tiny opening), you throw the bucket of water against it and only a small amount of water gets inside and passes through the window.
In window two (that’s wide open), you throw the bucket of water against it and whole bucket of water passes through.
After your workout, your muscle cells are like window number two: Primed and ready for nutrients to be shuttled in.
By ingesting a fast digesting carb drink that delivers a sufficient amount of protein as well is a surefire way to jump start protein synthesis and replenish your glycogen stores so you can come back stronger in your next training session.
10. Cycle your carbs
To add mass to your frame and split the sleeves of your t-shirt and not the seems of your pants, it’s smart to use a time tested method bodybuilders and physique athletes have used for years-carb cycling.
When you’re in a caloric surplus, and you let the wheels fall off with an unrestricted diet, you run the risk of spilling over around the gut. The six pack will soon be a keg.
By leveraging the powerful, anabolic power of insulin with carb cycling you can make gains without getting soft.
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Insulin is the hormone that regulates nutrient delivery into your muscle cells. When you’re insulin resistant, nutrients bypass entry into your muscle cells and then get stored as fat. When you’re insulin sensitive, nutrients get shuttle into your muscle cells, giving you that full, hard look while replenishing glycogen stores to prep your for your next training session.
Often, on a mass building program, carbohydrate intake skyrockets and thus turns a person who was once insulin sensitive into someone who is insulin resistant.
You can avoid this by simply manipulating your carbs throughout the week. Below is a general example that you can start with, and as you progress you can tweak to your liking.
Your days will broken into high, low and off days referring to carb intake. A sample week could look like this:
- Day 1: High (50% of your intake sourced from carbs. Training should be a big day like legs or back).
- Day 2: High
- Day 3: Low (30-35% of your intake sourced from carbs)
- Day 4: Low
- Day 5: Off (15-20% of your intake sourced from carbs)
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Low
*Remember, even though your cycling your carbs, you’ll still be in a caloric surplus.
11. Get support
There are a handful of people who can turn the switch on and do everything right on their own. They can plan out their own diet. They can write their own training program. And they can build success habits into their lifestyle with no additional support. If this is you, rock on.
But for most of you, this isn’t possible. A full time job that has you working 53 hours a week. The kids you’ve got to take to karate, soccer practice and piano lessons every week. And, you probably just don’t know how to write a training program or develop a diet that is tailored for you.
You don’t get thrown into a physics class and expect to know everything off the bat. You have a teacher who guides you through the process and sets you up for success.
The same process holds true for building muscle. You shouldn’t expect to step into the weight room or grocery store for the first time and know everything. If you have a bone deep conviction about building some serious muscle, do yourself a favor and recruit some help. Bring in a coach or mentor who will help show you the way.
12. Add creatine
We’ve touched on protein and EAA’s quite a bit up until this point for good reason. But it doesn’t discount the fact that creatine should be in every lifters repertoire of supplements. Creatine is deeply supported by studies and research to boosts strength and influences muscle gain.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the fuel used by the body for muscle contraction. The body uses three different pathways to produce ATP. For the sake of this post we’ll focus on the Creatine Kinase (anaerobic) pathway as it’s the initial and most effective.
This process utilizes a non oxygen method, that is responsible for maximal and near maximal muscle contraction. Creatine Kinase converts the initial ATP to energy. As your ATP is used, it loses a phosphate molecule and turns into adenosine diphosphate (ADP) which has no use for energy.
This is where creatine comes in.
As creatine is stored, it donates its phosphate group to ADP, and converting it back to ATP, which is then readily available as a fuel source. If you’re involved with any type of strength sport, look into creatine. When you’re pushing weight, the ATP system is the first to respond. However, the drawback to the quick availability of the ATP system is that it gets depleted fast (~10 seconds).
So, by supplementing with creatine you will be increasing storage of creatine availability thus decreasing fatigue and increasing performance.
5g of Ronnie Coleman Signature Series Creatine XS is perfect way to top off your creatine levels and ensure you’re entering the gym ready for battle.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, subjects increased their one-rep max for the bench press simply by having a caffeinated drink one hour before training. In another study, the same scientists found that subjects who had taken caffeine were able to do more reps with the same heavy weight (80% of their 1RM) than they were without taking caffeine.
Don’t hate. Caffeinate.
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14. Build better habits
This is arguably the most essential skill to your fitness success – knowing the difference between outcome goals and behavior goals.
An outcome goal is the main outcome or objective you want to accomplish: “I want to add 15 pounds of muscle in 12 months.”
But you can’t directly control outcomes. They’re achieved when a series of behaviors are followed. Behavior goals are the steps you do in order to accomplish your outcome goal. When your goal is to add 15 pounds to your frame in 12 months, the daily behaviors required could be the following:
- I will hit the gym Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at ten in the morning.
- I will increase my intake by 300 calories daily.
- I will drink a calorie dense shake every day to meet my caloric needs.
- I will drink a pre-workout drink that consists of 5g of creatine and 150mg of caffeine 20 minutes before my training sessions.
While you have control of your behavior, you don’t have control over the outcome. Obsessing over the end result sucks the energy out of you. You’re far better off focusing on the daily behaviors that will lead you to the best outcome.
You’re now equipped with 15 rock solid tips to go crush the gym and make the gains you’ve always wanted. But this is only the beginning. Knowledge without action is useless.
You’ve got the road-map. It’s your turn to take the wheel and turn your enthusiasm into results.
1) “All About Protein: What is It and How Much Do You Need?” Precision Nutrition. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.
2) “Amino Acid Ingestion Improves Muscle Protein Synthesis in the Young and Elderly. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.
3) “January 2011 – Volume 25 – Issue 1 : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.” LWW Journals – Beginning with A. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.
4) Kennedy, R. (2008). Encyclopedia of bodybuilding: The complete A-Z book on muscle building. Mississauga, ON: R. Kennedy Pub.
5) “Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle After Exercise. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.